Farmers opt out of beans after 2018 'disaster'

Ciaran Collins, Teagasc tillage specialist
Ciaran Collins, Teagasc tillage specialist
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Beans have the potential to be the most profitable crop tillage farmers could sow this spring, yet merchants have confirmed seed sales remain sluggish.

Farmers appear reluctant to plant beans this year after a "disaster" last year with the weather.

Teagasc tillage specialist Ciaran Collins said indications were that interest in beans remains poor.

"Teagasc figures indicate beans could be the most profitable crop farmers could grow this spring," said Mr Collins, adding there were potential margins of €700/ha.

He urged growers to make their decision based on the five-year yield average of 6t/ha from the CSO figures from 2012 to 2017. Farmers can also avail of a €3m fund to provide a protein payment to incentivise planting.

"They were a disaster last year, there is no question about that," said Mr Collins, but he pointed out that the five-year average showed the crop's potential profit levels.

With a window for sowing from now until around St Patrick's Day, he said companies were offering contract prices for beans, while the price for barley is still not known.

"They have the potential to deliver as good a margin as anything. They are a break crop, which is valuable and a brilliant opportunity for grass weed control as you are using different herbicides," he said.

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Quinns of Baltinglass created a firm market for beans by reaching out to farmers early in the year with a guaranteed price of €220/t at 20pc moisture, and it created strong interest.

Jim Gibbons of Germinal Ireland said it was all to play for with beans even though there was some "apathy" among farmers after last year's crop.

Donal Fitzgerald of Goldcrop urged farmers to sit down and examine the numbers on beans.

"They'll probably return the highest margin given a normal year," he said. "We should farm for the future, not the past."

He said forward indicators for feed barley are weak, with 3t of feed barley equal to 2t of feed beans based on current contract prices.

However, he acknowledged that with the slightly earlier sowing dates many farmers were wary of crow damage. The trade has indicated that seed for spring oats is virtually non-existent, with prices of around €750-800 for a tonne of seed. Mr Gibbons added that there was plenty of barley seed available.

IFA grain chair Mark Browne called on farmers buying compound feed rations to insist on Irish grains. He said Irish grain growers are forced to compete with non-EU feedstuffs which have advantages in relation to GM technology.

He warned the absence of a "level playing field" had seen sowings fall 20pc in 10 years.

Seed sales sluggish depite potential margins of €700 per ha this year

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